Hydrotherapy for EDS

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by Mary Chapman |

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orthopedic problems

Hydrotherapy could be a gentle, joint-friendly way to help you build strength and cardiovascular fitness, and relieve pain if you have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

What is EDS?

EDS is a group of genetic disorders that affect the body’s connective tissues, leading to symptoms that range from mildly loose joints to life-threatening complications.

The connective tissue in the joints is essential in maintaining their range of motion. Any damage to the connective tissue may loosen the joints, causing them to move past the normal range of motion. This may lead to joint pain and dislocations.

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is the use of water for the treatment of different conditions. It involves special exercises usually carried out in a warm-water pool.  It’s generally focused on slow, controlled movements and relaxation.

Usually part of physiotherapy, hydrotherapy is one of the treatments that may help people with EDS. Physiotherapy can help build more muscle around joints to provide the missing support and to improve posture and movement so that dislocations are less likely.

A trained physiotherapist will develop your hydrotherapy exercise program and assist you in implementing it. Sometimes group sessions are provided for people with similar conditions.

Hydrotherapy can be an adjunct to land-based exercises. It also can be useful if weight-bearing and land-based exercises are too difficult or painful.

You do not have to be able to swim to benefit from hydrotherapy, although you may be asked to use flotation equipment as part of the sessions.

How can hydrotherapy help?

Your physiotherapist can adjust the focus of the exercises to help your range of movement or strength, depending on your symptoms. Overall, hydrotherapy can help in multiple ways:

  • The warmth of the water allows your muscles to relax. This may ease the pain in your joints, helping you to exercise.
  • Because the water supports your weight, it may help relieve pain and increase the range of movement of your joints.
  • The water can be used to provide resistance — without the use of weights — to joint movement. By pushing your arms and legs against the water, you can improve your muscle strength and tone.
  • Water exercises can help with cardiovascular function and improve proprioception (joint position sense).
  • The water can reduce stress on joints.
  • The buoyancy of the water can improve balance, coordination, posture, and trunk control, as well as kidney and respiratory function, and circulation.
  • Water can reduce joint and soft tissue swelling.

Types of exercises

Some exercises that can be performed during hydrotherapy include:

  • knee extensions
  • flutter kicks
  • windmills
  • walking
  • jogging
  • punches
  • reverse abdominal curls.

Is hydrotherapy safe?

In consultation with your physician, your physiotherapist will create a personalized exercise plan for you that specifically addresses your condition and abilities.

But take care not to overdo it. In general, water is easy on a person’s joints, and the extra support it provides may make you feel like you can do more exercise than usual. Always follow your physiotherapist’s recommendations.

It is normal for the exercise and the water’s temperature to make you feel somewhat tired after treatment, and for your muscles to feel sore or tired for up to two days after exercising.

Before a session starts, tell your physiotherapist whether you are experiencing any other EDS symptoms such as digestive problems, bladder issues, or dizziness.


Last updated: Sept. 9, 2020


Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.